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Trump Secures Pastor Brunson's Release

12 October 2018

A Turkish diplomatic source told Middle East Eye that during the last talks between Turkey and the U.S. on Brunson in NY last month, USA officials drew a line and said "we have no more to give or to negotiate, release Brunson and let's start talking then".

"'Give us the pastor back', they say. Thanks to the strong leadership of @POTUS Trump and the steadfast prayers of millions of Americans, this innocent man of faith will soon be home!" President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's communications director Fahrettin Altun repeated the president's message that Turkey would not bow to threats of sanctions and said the court's ruling proved the judiciary's independence.

Brunson faced up to 35 years in prison had he been convicted of the alleged crimes he committed.

Brunson, 50, had rejected the espionage and terror-related charges and strongly maintained his innocence.

Andrew Craig Brunson is escorted by Turkish plain clothes police officers, July 25, 2018, in Izmir, Turkey. The case had become a a cause célèbre among Christian evangelicals and a vocal priority for U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence-as well as a source of friction between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

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Prosecutors accuse Brunson of committing crimes on behalf of terror groups, linking him to outlawed Kurdish militants and a network led by a USA -based Turkish cleric who is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.

"We see this as a possible face-saving way for Erdogan to agree to Brunson's release", the Eurasia Group said last week. Brunson was taken into custody in 20-16 over terrorism charges.

NBC's sources said an agreement on Brunson's release was advanced in discussions last month between Turkish and US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, during the United Nations General Assembly in NY.

The Trump administration has, however said that it remains "hopeful" that the pastor will be freed at today's hearing.

A Turkish judge convicted Brunson on charges of "providing aid to terrorist groups without being a member", while sentencing him to time served and lifting a ban on foreign travel, clearing the way for his return to the U.S.

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Furious over Turkey's refusal to let him go, President Donald Trump in August doubled metal tariffs on Turkey and slapped sanctions on two senior Turkish officials involved in Brunson's detention.

Brunson's release "could reset Trump and Erdogan's relationship", Soner Cagaptay of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Thursday that the USA was hopeful he will soon go free, but said she was unaware of any agreement for his release.

In Turkey, witnesses said Brunson wept as the decision was announced. He denies the claims against him made by Turkish officials.

American officials were quoted as saying that the U.S. military has a plan to fly the pastor back to America on a military aircraft. "Those prayers combined with the unwavering resolve of President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Brownback brought tangible help to Pastor Brunson and hope to those around the globe who are being persecuted due to their faith".

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Trump Secures Pastor Brunson's Release